Experts' corner

Chris Fulop

BREAKing Through Standard

Chris Fulop covers new deck lists for Standard and Expanded that make use of cards from the new BREAKthrough expansion.

11/23/2015 by Chris Fulop

Hey, everyone! I'm back with a slew of new lists featuring cards in the new BREAKthrough set, and with a pair of League Challenge tournament reports from over the past weekend. This is my favorite part of any given season of Organized Play, as we creep closer and closer to City Championships, where players can really earn a bulk of the Championship Points necessary to qualify for Worlds! To top it off, I'll do everyone a favor and not take a moment to complain about the new changes to Pokémon Online, outside of the fact that it is making playtesting much, much harder for me. (My client loves crashing after I've been logged on for about 5 minutes. Every time.)

First off, I want to go over the pair of League Challenges I attended over the weekend. Now, prior to this, I had not bothered to make it out to a League Challenge in my life. Outside of the low Championship Point payout, they felt like an annoying commitment, forcing me to drive somewhere for little-to-no value. Last year, I figured if I neared the invite mark, I could always catch up and just attend a bunch of LCs at the end of the season and get my Points. I stopped chasing the invite before that became a thing, unfortunately. This year, I had embraced something of the same mindset, putting off making it out to any of them, regardless of proximity. This Saturday, I woke up early, and went onto Facebook, where I saw a post from my longtime friend Mike O'Donnell, asking around for rides to League Challenges that day. I had nothing else going on, so I hit him up, and we determined we could make it out to a LC in Sandusky at 1 PM, and then drive all the way out to Streetsboro to hit a second LC later that evening at 6.

Both events were Expanded, which was a nice relief, as while I've been testing Standard, it has been with BREAKthrough, and I did not feel comfortable with the "old" Standard in the least. I'd been discussing it with my friend Kristen a bunch, as being in the UK, she’d had a set of Regionals in that format, and I was struggling to find a deck I really liked in the format. The best "conclusion" we managed to come to was for her to just default to Turbo Rayquaza for her first Regionals, and it paid off well for her, as she snuck into Top 8 with it before being beaten by Night March, a near autoloss for the archetype. It was the deck she knew the best, and catching the right matchups, it could coast through an event. The most important factor that went into that decision, in my opinion, was that it was one of the decks which could run an actual functional engine. The idea of having to run cards like Professor Birch's Observation, Ace Trainer, and the like just felt so off-putting. All of the non-gimmick-engine decks felt super clunky and had a pretty high rate of poor draws. At least Turbo Rayquaza, alongside decks like Night March and Vespiquen, could run engines which didn't require you to run such subpar cards. If it had been Standard, I would have likely sleeved up Crobat/Raichu/Flareon, a deck I feel is EXTREMELY clunky, but one that has matchups I really like to hopefully offset that.

I was late picking up Mike, and spent the car ride out to Sandusky trying to brainstorm what deck I wanted to play. We expected a low turnout, particularly from the state’s better players, so I just wanted to play something safe. Mike said the last LC he played at the same store, there were locals running Durant and Wailord, and that he was going to be playing Vespiquen because it should beat both of those decks. There are four decks I like in Expanded at the moment (pre-BREAKthrough): Yveltal/Raichu, Yveltal/Toad, Vespiquen, and Crobat/Landorus.

Yveltal/Raichu was the deck I use at Regionals, and a deck I felt comfortable with. (It also meant I didn't have to build something new!) I have actually logged far more games with an Yveltal/Seismitoad deck than I have with the Raichu version, and liked what it offered a lot. I know Frank Diaz had won Fort Wayne Regionals with the deck, so it was certainly well-positioned. That said, I felt like it was a worse deck than the Raichu build against Mike's Vespiquen deck, which is important since I expected him to be my biggest competition. Vespiquen is likely just the best deck, as showcased by Jimmy O’Brien’s incredible run with the deck between Philly and Fort Wayne Regionals. I hadn't played a ton of games with it but I did feel comfortable enough with the deck, especially in a best-of-one scenario where I can afford not to rush through my play. Most of the deck's difficulty stems from its engine, and that is something I could just think through as I played, even if I would be slower at it than I'd like.

I quickly was forced to rule the deck out due to a lack of having all of the cards for the deck. The last choice, Crobat/Landorus, was what I would have likely used for Fort Wayne, and a deck I felt very confident with against Vespiquen. Between the Bench damage, Bat Abilities, and Focus Sash, the matchup is pretty strong. Having a massive heads-up advantage over Mike was very appealing. Unfortunately, if I ran into, say, that Wailord deck, I didn't want to deal with that matchup again, seeing how it had already cost me Day 2 of Nationals last season.

I wound up sticking with my Yveltal/Raichu deck because I felt it had very few bad matchups, and it had treated me well so far. Here are the 60 cards I used for the event.

The big change from my Regionals list was the swap from a third Yveltal-EX, a card which underperformed, into a second Darkrai-EX, a card which is instrumental in giving me a closer matchup against any potential Manectric-EX decks. I also added a seventh Darkness Energy because of this. I feel six Darkness is functional and the bare minimum you can play, but it does bite you occasionally, and seven is ideal. With the expectation to be attacking with Darkrai-EX more often, I felt like I needed to take the safer count for this event.

Sandusky League Challenge


Round 1 versus "Bye"

Not many players showed up to the event, and we managed to convince one of the people at the store who wasn't aiming to play in the event to sign up so that we could have eight people for the event and loaned them a deck. Luckily, I got paired against them in the first round, and they opted to give me the win. On one hand, I'll take a free win, but I knew that this would be really bad on my tiebreakers, which is something to really pay attention to at League Challenges due to a lack of a top cut.


Round 2 versus Alex (Bronzong/Giratina/Tyrantrum)

Alex wins the die roll, and opens a Keldeo-EX to my Yveltal. He is forced to use Shaymin-EX for two, and off the last card, draws a Hoopa-EX. This nets him a Tyrantrum-EX, a Giratina-EX, and a Jirachi-EX for a Sycamore. He fails to find a Sky Field, thus preventing him from being able to Bench any Bronzor. I get a pretty strong turn one, getting an Yveltal-EX attacking into his Keldeo that has a Metal Energy on it from his turn. I failed to be able to Bench any Pikachu, which was really unfortunate, especially had the start of the game played out differently.

I opted not to play my own Sky Field down, as I wanted to choke his Bench space, since he was full of Pokémon-EX and had little going for him. I assumed he played Sky Field, but I also was unsure of how many. I predicted a pair. (He ran three, and a Fairy Garden.) The matchup is pretty good for me overall. Raichu does 180, which OHKOs both of his Pokémon-EX. If he is relying on Sky Field himself, he can't really attack my Bench size very well, and that means Raichu is going to be a nightmare for him. Tyrantrum is just not very good against me, whereas Giratina is a bit better versus Raichu (it can lock me off of Band and Sky Field, potentially) but it is miserable against Yveltal-EX.

His hand turns out to be abysmal, consisting of two Energy, a Lysandre, and three Bronzong, and frustrated, he concedes the game. I wouldn't have conceded in his shoes, even though I was almost a lock to win based on the game states if he had to effectively pass that turn. I had a really strong hand to follow up with, but he didn't know that. You have to play a game like this out, just in case you can steal it off of N, for example, at the end.


We play another game for fun while waiting for the round to end, and he gets a near perfect start. My start is incredible as well, and we have a hell of a game. I play Hoopa-EX, hoping to get a Shaymin-EX, Jirachi-EX, and Yveltal-EX, using Jirachi to nab a Hex Maniac and lock him off of Bronzong the next turn (likely sealing the game) but it was Prized. He gets the turn-two Tyrantrum attacking, and I get the return-KO with a Raichu. I get down to two Prizes (still no Hex Maniac) versus his four, and am really well-positioned, just needing to see a Lysandre to clip one of his Shaymin-EX, but I get N'd to two, and never draw out of it, losing an extremely close game by a Prize in the long run.

Round 3 versus Mike (Vespiquen)

With only eight players, me and Mike decide to draw, locking up First and Second Place. I figure my breakers would put me in second, but I felt like I was a slight underdog in the matchup, so I was fine with the draw regardless. If I predicted poor breakers, I certainly didn't want to finish 2-1, as it meant taking Third or Fourth was quite likely. I wound up taking First, narrowly, on opponent's opponent's win percentage. We agreed that whoever took Second Place would get the consolation prize of getting the First Place promo Marowak though. We each got three boosters, and I opened a full-art bad Mewtwo-EX. Alex finished in Fourth Place, and Kevin, using Wailord, finished in Third, with his loss being Round 2 to Mike.

We play for fun, and for practice, as Mike was new with his deck and it was a matchup I was very much in need of testing more. I get off to a pretty good start, taking the prize lead, but being forced into Benching a bunch of Pokémon-EX for him to pick off as the game progressed, which I was unhappy about. His start is fairly anemic, but I struggled to get Pikachu down. ( My friend Joe Wenneman, who also used his own list of Yveltal Raichu at Philly Regionals, was running a 4-3 Raichu line, and I'll admit, a 4th Pikachu would help get them out on the first turn, something I'll admit to struggling with. ) He had to Sycamore away 2 Plasma Flareon on his first turn, and midgame, he was stuck with a nasty decision between Sycamoring away 3 VS Seeker and a Lysandre, or not having a Combee or Eevee Benched to be able to attack with if I got a KO. He makes the right call to Sycamore, as brutal as it was.

I liked my position until he played a Life Dew on his Flareon. This really messed with my projected Prize exchange, and I had to make a choice. I had to either Lysandre around this Flareon, as I needed four Prizes. Five would have been too many unless he Benched another EX, which seemed unlikely. Rather than try to win by Prizes, which would have demanded I hit three Lysandres, with two VS Seeker and one Lysandre left...a tough task based on my hand (which just had a VS Seeker), I chose to attack his attacker count/DCEs. He had to discard his Flareon which enabled Blacksmith previously, so he had no way to power Vespiquen later on. (I knew he ran no Pokémon-recovery cards). I OHKO’d his last Flareon, leaving him with two DCE and three Vespiquen left. He Prized a Fire Energy, and had previously discarded one, so he only had two attacks left in him without access to Blacksmith, and I wound up winning that way.

It was discouraging because he Life Dew would have won his the game if he hadn't faced a very awkward game where he had to discard so many resources. I was happy with my ability to read the game state and figure out the best line to obtain a win, but it made me realize I wanted to fit a Xerosic into the deck. Taking off DCE and stripping off Life Dew should do a lot for the matchup overall I felt. Having won the "game" we played, I felt better about having my tiebreakers hold up to get me First Place and the 15 Championship Points, bringing me up to 60 for the season thus far.

We make the drive out to Streetsboro, to Empire Gaming Center, a store I love, although I do not get to go there often due to it being about 45 minutes from my house. This whole day was a logistical nightmare, as Mike's place, Sandusky, and Streetsboro pretty much forces a nice triangle, and led to over four net hours of driving for me.

This League Challenge had far more players, bringing us eighteen Masters, three Seniors and three Juniors. This meant we'd be having five rounds. To top it off, this event had a pretty reasonable amount of good players. I saw a bunch of people playing Night March and Giratina things, as well as Manectric-EX. Stubborn, I decide to stick to Yveltal/Raichu. At this point, I felt a general lack of pressure for the event, since I locked up 15 points on the day already and over the rest of the season, I should be able to win five more LCs.

Here is the list I registered:

You'll notice a few changes to the deck. First off, I cut a Darkness Energy for the Xerosic. I didn't want to drop down to six Darkness again, but with Mike on Vespiquen again, and a lot of Giratina present, especially from top players, I really wanted to have a Xerosic. I cut an N for a second Shaymin-EX, as I wanted to be able to have a fourteenth Basic Pokémon, and I was adding a non-draw Supporter. This was a super debatable swap, but I was pressed for time to make an adjustment.

Finally, I really wanted an Absol to help against Manectric-EX and Night March. Against Manectric, the plan is to put 30 damage on something that can't be Rough Sea'd, such as a Shaymin-EX or Hoopa-EX. This means, at some point over the course of the game, Absol moves 30 Active and a Banded Raichu can score an OHKO from there. Well, OHKO with an assist. Since the plan in the matchup relies heavily on Night Spear anyways, that 30 is pretty easy to come by. Against Night March, it acts as a third Yveltal, OHKOing Pumpkaboo and Joltik, getting powered easily enough off of Dark Patch or Oblivion Wing. It also can move damage off something, if you failed an early game OHKO, onto a Joltik for a free KO and jump ahead in the exchange. In order to fit Absol, I cut the Keldeo-EX, which hadn't been carrying its weight very well.



Round 1 versus Dugtrio/Eeveelutions

This is an interesting matchup, and one where Hex Maniac is extremely clutch. If I can keep them off of Jolteon, I can control the game, but being Lightning and Fighting, effectively, gives him great type coverage against my whole deck. I go first, and get an Energy on my Benched Yveltal-EX. He fills his Bench with a Jirachi-EX, two Diglett, and a Mr. Mime. He is forced to leave his only Eevee Active! I spend my whole turn digging deep to try and get an Energy attachment, including Benching both off my Shaymin-EX, and instead miss my attachment, and have to pass with a Raichu Active. (I didn't want to give up two Prizes on the next turn.) He attaches to a Dugtrio, plays Jolteon to free Retreat, and KOs Raichu.

I get a KO with a new Raichu, figuring I was in really poor shape due to digging through about 25 cards and only seeing the one Energy by turn two. With the Eevee KO, I felt like I was a massive favorite to win, and missing it put me super far behind. Luckily, even after his Prize draw, he has no attachment, and no play. His dead draw continues for a few turns as I take a substantial Prize lead. NORMALLY him missing a few attacks should seal the game, but this wasn't the case at all here! I was forced to discard a ton of my attackers on my second turn to dig towards that missed Energy drop, leaving me at a point where I only had one Yveltal, one Yveltal-EX, one Raichu, and a Darkrai to work with. So even if I had a Prize lead, he could have actually done what I did to Mike in our game, and just won by depleting my attackers. By the time he got anything going again, I was at two Prizes with three powered attackers in play, and locked up the game.


Round 2 versus Manectric-EX

Well, now it’s time to put the "two Darkrai and an Absol" plan to the test. I win the die roll, which is huge, as if I can get a t2 KO on a Manectric with a Raichu I am just extremely favored to win. He opens Regice, to my Yveltal. I get a pretty strong opening, and get two Pikachu in play, including a DCE on one. He plays a Water onto Regice, before Hoopa'ing to fill his Bench and set up. I was thrilled to see an attachment on a Regice and not a Manectric here. This made me wonder if he possibly ran Mega Turbo as a means to power up a Manectric out of nowhere, as it would make the most sense. On my second turn, I'm unable to see a second Sky Field, as he countered the one I played on my first turn. (I would have held it normally, but I had to Sycamore.) I could have Sycamore’d again, but I really, really didn't want to take a KO on Regice, as it’s that awkward seventh Prize in the game, I felt. I instead Lysandre up a Shaymin-EX to take two Prizes with a Raichu, figuring it was proper for the exchange.

Unfortunately, he plays a Muscle Band and a DCE onto his Regice to KO my Raichu. Yuck. I didn't put him on DCE, as the split between Water and Lightning Energy was already fairly demanding. I mean, I didn't consider DCE, but figured he would run two at most. (He ran two.) He had also Benched an Articuno, so it just felt weird that he'd run DCE just for the occasional applications on a Regice. So that blew me out, and I had to take a turn off to restock my attackers. I Oblivion Winged Regice, attaching to a Darkrai. He Lysandres up the Darkrai, attaching to Manectric, and smacks it for 90. I get a Dark Patch and attach to Yveltal, to KO Regice for 100, but the 90 on Darkrai was backbreaking, as I had the second one Prized. I was down to three Prizes, and still hadn't freed it. I'm stuck in a bad spot, trying to figure out an exchange, and I need to get a KO on a non-EX, and his Hoopa, it seemed. The rough part here is I was out of Muscle Band, and had to discard Absol early on to an Ultra Ball. I had to Night Spear the Hoopa, setting it to 140, hoping I could Raichu it later. Things started to fall apart, and he had a commanding lead over the board, and was at two Prizes to my three.

I only had one line which could get me out of it, MAYBE. (It was quite the longshot.) I N'd us both, and used Sky Return, hiding behind my Hoopa-EX. He played no Supporter, and smacked Hoopa for 110. I Lysandre'd up his Hoopa, and Oblivion Wing’d it, building an Yveltal-EX on my Bench. I needed him to continue to dead draw so I could get a KO on this Hoopa with him at two Prizes, then Lysandre up his Articuno and KO that without him having a Lysandre. I smack Regice, and he topdecks AZ, blowing me out. I try and stick another Lysandre, with the hopes of doing this long enough to just stall the game out to time for a draw, as him being at one Prize made it impossible for me to actually win the game, as he gets a KO once I take one on him. Time is called, but he is able to Retreat in time to get a KO and the win.


Round 3 versus Speed Rayquaza

BETRAYAL! I open Yveltal, and have a Benched Yveltal-EX. I knew what he was playing prior to the game, as I had seen his game going on. He takes the standard, extremely long turn one, as he won the die roll. My eyes go wide when I see him discard a Swablu! He had no idea I was running Raichu in my Yveltal build, and that was great. I go and Bench two Pikachu and get an Energy onto an Yveltal-EX. I don't have enough Raichu to realistically OHKO three Mega Rayquaza, so the plan is to take out two, and then a Shaymin with Y Cyclone and a Band. I had a DCE in hand, but didn't want to commit to a 'Chu because it’s too alluring for him to Lysandre it then.

Unfortunately for me, he Ultra Balls for...a second Swablu (yes, I instinctively checked his discard pile for the first Swablu in disbelief, even though I HIGHLY doubt the guy would have pulled anything, at all) and then slams Altaria. Great. This just got a lot harder. It was ugly, because I didn't have a Raichu in my hand. I was stuck choosing between getting a Raichu, and playing Hex Maniac. Clearly, I needed to do both. I'm stuck Evil Balling, which is a terrible place to be. I spend the whole game just narrowly behind, with my draws being just poor enough that I couldn't ever afford to play down my Hex Maniac, which is necessary to win once he got the Altaria out. (The first time, I lacked a Raichu, and later, I couldn't get another Pikachu to Bench for the necessary follow-up attack if I played it...just a really awkward series of draws out of my deck.)


I stayed in the event in case I got paired up at any point. If I got the pair-up against a friend, I'd give them a free win, and if I got the pair-up against anyone else, I'd try and play spoiler and drop an x-1 out of contention to help my friends’ odds of a higher placement at x-1. Of course, I just get paired against another 1-2, and I forfeit so I can go trade. Highlight of my trades? Some Forest of Giant Plants and a pair of Oddish for that unbelievable looking Mega Rayquaza toy that comes in one of those box collections. EASILY made up for the poor performance and clunky draws which are not characteristic of the deck.

I won't really reflect too much on where to go with the deck from here, for two major reasons. First and foremost, I'm not sure I'd run it again. The metagame here is a bit hostile towards it. There are a lot of close matchups, and some pretty rough ones, and not a ton of decks that it preys on. The other reason is that BREAKthrough is adding a bunch of new cards, and I want to explore some of those for Expanded as well. With LCs being very low stake and expendable, I'd rather use them as a chance to diversify what I'm playing.

With those little tournament reports out of the way, I want to start going over some of the new lists I have been working on with the new BREAKthrough cards! I won't be going over each list in great detail (I have more to say about some lists than others) because I will be including a bunch of them. I'll be going over both Expanded but mainly Standard lists, as it seems that Cities, and definitely League Challenges, are going to be a split of the formats.

This is one of the decks I am the most excited for! Everyone knows I've been pretty high on Ho-Oh for Expanded for a while now, having explored builds with both Dragonite-EX and Huntail. With the release of BREAKthrough we get a while new route to take the deck, involving the brand new Xerneas!

Xerneas offers the deck two things it struggled with previously: OHKO power, and a reliable non-EX attacker. Rainbow Force (this sounds like a new Power Rangers series) does 10 damage plus 30 more for each type of Pokémon on your Bench. Xerneas is Fairy-type, Ho-Oh is Fire type, Shaymin is Colorless, Jirachi is Metal, Dragonite is Dragon, and Hoopa is Psychic. That is six types of Pokémon you want to be playing anyways in this deck, and it isn't hard to round the deck out from there. In this list, we have Virizion-EX, Dedenne, and Keldeo-EX at the moment, but they are there more for their typing than the low level of utility they actually offer the deck. (Alternatives can be Seismitoad-EX, and Tropius, even.) With a full, diverse Bench, Xerneas can attack for 250 damage!

The beauty of this is that it can be pretty easily powered up by using Ho-Oh-EX. If you are able to get a Ho-Oh into play on the first turn with a Fairy Energy attached to it, an Energy Switch and a DCE later and Xerneas is going wild. Now, while it CAN be pulled off on the first turn, particularly if you open with Xerneas, I wouldn't be trying to make this the Plan A of the deck in most matchups because the deck does not have a ton of space, and this means that we don't get to run any Switch cards sans an AZ. To offset this, we run the Dragonite-EX package I've been a fan of for a while now. Rather than worry about powering up and promoting a Xerneas, which is difficult to do, we just get a few Energy onto a revived Ho-Oh-EX, and use Dragonite's Ability to bring itself Active, ready to attack. Dragonite should provide enough pressure out of the gates to tide you over until Xerneas starts swinging for OHKOs.

The Energy count is extremely awkward, as Xerneas needs Fairy Energy, and Dragonite needs Grass and Lightning Energy. To make Xerneas a viable attack, it needs DCE. I'm not sure the numbers are correct, but I'm running exactly one copy over what number I feel you "need" to make each particular attack function in the deck to account for Prize issues. I could see running a thirteenth Energy if needed, too.

One change I've considered here is to run a Skyla, and make the ACE SPEC Scramble Switch. By doing this, you can Battle Compressor away Skyla, or grab it with Jirachi-EX, and then Scramble all three Energy off a Ho-Oh and instantly power up a Xerneas. This gives you a Switching card, and also just makes the turn-one Xerneas much more reliable. With this package, I actually think you can pretty reliably OHKO an EX on the first turn, which just seems filthy.

I'm not saying this is a final product, like most of these lists, as I've been more interested in just playing a few games with as many different ideas as I can think up than settling in on one or two to refine them. I think there is definitely something here, and this is, by far, my favorite deck to come out of the new set.

Turbo Rayquaza actually doesn't really GAIN much out of BREAKthrough, but it does face a new enemy in the fact of Parallel City. This makes for a real challenge keeping a full Bench for the most impressive Emerald Breaks. As a result, to help offset this, we're running THREE Hoopa-EX and TWO Sacred Ash. Hoopa and Ash make refilling the Bench after a Parallel City much easier to pull off than it would be otherwise. Parallel City is an interesting card because it is clearly backbreaking against this deck, but Rayquaza isn't close to Public Enemy #1 in Standard at the moment, so I'm unsure how many decks will actually want to be running Parallel City. The farther off-the-radar Rayquaza is, the less Parallel City I expect to see. How many decks can justify running multiple copies? I assume not too many. Nonetheless, it is still a problem card.

At the first UK Regionals that Kristen Top 8’d, she ran a very thin Banette line. Shuppet discards Special Energy with Bleh, and Banette shut down Pokémon Tools, helping deal with Focus Sash, and slowing down Spirit Links. I loved the Shuppet inclusion, slowing down Giratina decks while having fringe application against Night March, Vespiquen, random Seismitoad, and Raichu. I was less sold on the Banette, and that made making the switch to Jirachi very easy. Jirachi has an attack for a lone Colorless Energy that strips a Special Energy off the Active, AND leaving itself immune to attacks on the next turn. This is incredibly powerful. As a result, I made the choice to run Metal Energy as my Basic. Hypothetically, Fire or Fighting Energy are better to MAYBE key off of Scorched Earth, a Stadium which seems minimal play. I doubt I'll ever use Jirachi's second attack, which requires the Metal. That said, Metal Rayquaza is a possible build for Rayquaza, and seeing Metal Energy could misguide an opponent as to what is in your deck. Even if they fail to see any Metal Pokémon early, making a dedicated Metal inclusion unlikely, it is still possible for them to put you on say, a 1-1 Bronzong line for late game Energy.

Fitting in the extra cards comes at a price, of course. I'm down to two Acro Bike, and a very "questionable" two Battle Compressor. There was a point where this card was a four-of! Three is the "safest" bet for this card, but you really only want to see a single copy any game. You want it to enable Mega Turbo, as well as get access to your toolbox of Supporters. It used to be a lot more powerful because it also was getting-Exeggcute, a function it no longer serves since the Egg rotated. Plenty of cards have already had to be trimmed below comfort levels, and the third Battle Compressor is just less impactful than the other cards which glue the deck together.

Between Xerosic and Jirachi, the deck has a lot of game against Giratina decks banking on Double Dragon Energy to power the scary nightmare Centipede up. Xerosic is a card I love in the format, as hitting Special Energy AND hitting tools such as Focus Sash seems really alluring to me. Both functions are high value at the moment, even though this doesn't seem like the kind of deck to need it.

This is another one of the archetypes I really like, although it is extremely clunky. I love the matchups that the deck has, but it suffers from a definite difficult to use engine. I feel like it takes a bigger hit than Turbo Rayquaza to Parallel City if it sees play, because it doesn't get the same ease of Bench refilling due to the lack of Hoopa-EX. Unfortunately Hoopa is just a very weak card in this deck, and despite trying to talk myself into it, I can't bring myself to include it.

Crobat Raichu has an issue in that it really only keys off of DCE for its attacks, so you have to run some sort of supporting Pokémon line to help with this. You can run Bronzong (and possible Metal support) Milotic (to get back DCE) or, which is what I've gone with, is the inclusion of a Flareon line and Blacksmith. Flareon serves the double purpose of also giving us a Fire type presence against Sceptile-EX (which had success in Europe at Regionals in Standard) and Metal decks, which can be troublesome. Lastly, and this may not make the final cut of the deck, but it lets us play a Charizard-EX. For RRCC, Charizard hits for 150 damage, and with DCE and Blacksmith, this can be powered up in a turn! Pair this with a Muscle Band, and we hit the 170 mark, and this is all before Bat damage. There are spots where having a heavy HP high damage attacker comes in handy, and I feel like Charizard is that low maintenance attacker. This helps give the deck some insurance if you struggle to keep Pikachu in play, or get ravaged by Parallel City. Plus, who doesn't love Charizard?

Looking at some of the Trainer counts, you'll see only two Muscle Band. Raichu loves the 180 mark, but in this build, we have Golbat damage to safely hit it. Space is really tight, so two Band is all we are fitting. There are only three Sky Field, and as I mentioned with my Raichu/Yveltal list, that is because if the opponent counters three of them, the deck can't reasonably fill the Bench again, so it is kind of useless. Two major exclusions are Hex Maniac and Xerosic. First off, this deck is a very poor Shaymin deck, despite running four copies of the card. You will often need to use your Supporter for the turn on draw power. As a result, utility Supporters lose value. You don't need Hex Maniac to slow down Vespiquen and Night March, because you can keep up the exchange and actually hop ahead with Bats. You can beat Aegislash and Safeguard effects with the mechanics of the deck. Bats let you cheat around Focus Sash, so Xerosic isn't needed there. With Jirachi, you have other ways to attack special Energy against Giratina-EX, a card that is otherwise very difficult for Raichu to handle. While both Supporters are nice in the deck, they are not necessary.

Where the deck is light is on Supporters, and possibly Switch. One AZ and one Switch is low, but the deck can't really attack on the first turn, and Raichu and Golbat both have free Retreat. I dislike the low count, but I think its ok. I'd love to see a second Birch, and maybe an Ace Trainer or Judge in this deck. I'm not sure where I'd find the space for it, as they are worse than the Sycamores and Fan Club. Finally, I almost want to run a second Sacred Ash. The big problem this deck has is that it is a bad Shaymin deck (the Evolution lines lead to clunky, full hands) but ALSO a bad Sycamore deck (which is a problem, because Sycamore is the only GOOD Supporter), also due to multiple Evolution lines. You end up discarding a lot of your Pokémon to Ultra Ball and Sycamore, so a second Ash may be useful here. It would also help with Parallel City. Again, though, the space is very limited, and I'm not sure what I'd trim for it.

This is another deck I like, although it is pretty bad against Mega Manectric, which is a major strike against it unless the metagame shifts some. The deck isn't anything revolutionary, but I do want to go over the attacker choice.

First off, we have a 3-3 Mega Rayquaza line, with only 2 Spirit Link. Without Mega Turbo, the deck is incapable of getting a turn-one Rayquaza-EX. You lose that speed, and gain a ton in stability and versatility. The big point about this is that your turn 1 should almost always end with using Mega Rayquaza's trait to Mega Evolve on the first turn. This means that you don't need a Link until your second or third Rayquaza. If you stumble there at all, the deck is able to provide enough back up attackers that you aren't totally punished for it.

Second, we have two Heatran, who is just a hefty non-EX attacker. Against most EX decks, Mega Rayquaza does most of the world, so with our back up attackers we want to give ourselves some weapons against the other decks. Heatran is also a pretty viable attacker against Mega Manectric-EX, if you can keep them off of Rough Seas, as it does threaten to two hit them, while being out of range of their OHKO ability. (Worth noting, a Giovanni's Scheme would allow the Heatran two-hit KO plan to work even past a single Rough Sea's activation, but that’s awkward because I just expect players to Retreat between Manectric to maximize Sea healing.)

Promo Ditto is an interesting attacker, as he functions similarly to Kecleon, who rotated, in this deck. It gives you a huge edge in Rayquaza mirror. It also lets you copy Raichu's attack, keeping up with the exchange easily. It can be used against Vespiquen to score OHKOs as well because this deck runs a lot of Pokémon.

Against Night March, Heatran, and actually Bronzong, become your major attackers, as you try and avoid using any of your Pokémon-EX at all. Aegislash used to be a good defense in the matchup, but Hex Maniac makes it such a huge liability, to the point I do not even choose to run it.

The reason I run two copies of Ditto and Heatran is how that interacts with Sacred Ash. In matchups where they become your primary attackers (Vespiquen, Night March, Manectric, etc.) it lets you have an effective four copies of each of these attackers.

I'd love to fit the new promo Jirachi in here, because the deck is a little bit soft to Giratina, but I'm not sure what I'd cut to make this happen. Between it and Xerosic, you can really pressure non-basic Energy cards in matchups where it is important. Mega Rayquaza can pick on Giratina pretty easily if you are able to play Sky Field down, so just breaking up the lock for a turn blows the game wide open.

This is one of the few Rayquaza builds where I like the Colorless version more. Normally the Dragon type one is better due to higher HP and a DCE attack that can work vs Night March, but in this deck hitting for 100 for CCC is totally doable due to Metal Links.

Finally, I wanted to address Ace Trainer vs Judge in this deck. I've been unimpressed by Judge in my testing so far. It is pretty poor as a disruptive card. I've rarely gotten it to really stick an opponent with a bad card. It is too low impact in terms of disruption, and way too high risk as a draw card for myself to be safe. Ace Trainer is more situational in use, but when it works, it is exactly what you want. It gives you a nice, healthy six-card hand, and gives them a more hindering three. I just like it better overall.

Night March is a pretty simple deck to build, and I need to give credit to Brad Curcio for the base point for this list, as he was the first to open my eyes to attempting a build that doesn't run any Dimension Valley. Without Mew-EX, the card is just lower impact. In most cases, Joltik and Pumpkaboo both just get OHKO’d. When that is the case, and even with Valley both require a DCE to attack, why not just attack exclusively with Joltik? Buddy Buddy Rescue, the most embarrassing card title of all time, is great at letting us get Joltik back. The fact that it goes into hand is huge, as it allows us to BC for Pokémon. I almost want to try running a third or fourth copy, and include an Unown in the list. Getting back on topic to the lack of Valley, to acknowledge we do not have any way to attack beyond the 4 DCE, we run a 2-2 Bronzong line to let us use Metal Links in the late game to attack. I've seen builds use Milotic to represent fifth and sixth DCEs, but I think I like Bronzong more because it is less timing sensitive and also makes beating Giratina-EX a much easier task.

You'll notice the deck goes ALL IN on an Item engine, going so far as only running three TOTAL Supporter cards and running dubious item cards such as Roller Skates. Ideally the deck is able to pull off a turn-one Hex Maniac, so you do not want to rely on a draw Supporter at all. Perhaps one of the three Supporters should be ticked up to a second copy, but let’s face it, sometimes you just have to live on the edge, right?

I'd like to test the new Reserve Ticket, since it is also a flip, as it may be the better flip card than Skates. Simply being able to always yield a DCE may make it better. That said, I've tested the deck a lot with Skates, and haven't tried out Ticket yet, so the default now is the tried and tested card.

In my opinion, the best Pokémon to come out of BREAKthrough is Gallade, and I'm excited to try it in both Standard and Expanded. While it can be used with Maxie's Hidden Ball Trick in both formats, I feel like that approach is better suited for Expanded where the engine for it is better. I feel it can somewhat reliably be pulled off in Standard, but doing so multiple times in a game seems challenging. The engine needed for Maxie is pretty demanding, and running it alongside a full evolution line seems counterproductive to actually making it work. There may be a hybrid build that works smoothly enough (I am more optimistic in Expanded) but I wanted to start with something a bit safer.

The deck isn't terribly complex. It runs a 4-1-4 Gallade line as it is your primary attacker. The only Fighting Pokémon I'm excite to pair with it are Lucario-EX and Hawlucha, and I'm running a copy of each. Landorus is a bit of a backup plan, letting you keep Energy in play when you run out of DCEs, or if you get Giratina locked on Special Energy. One of the nice perks of a Fighting deck like this is that we get to run Korrina, which actually gives the deck a reasonable amount of good Supporters. Korrina makes assembling a Stage 2 Pokémon with Rare Candy pretty smooth.

One thing you'll notice is I'm only running three Strong Energy, and three Fighting Energy. First off, this lets you get more value out of Professors Letter. It also gives you some wiggle room around Giratina-EX, even if it is a bit of a lost cause. Maybe a 4/2 split in favor of Fighting is actually correct here. Your primary attacker, Gallade, is mainly looking to use DCE, so your other Energy cards are mainly for back up plans, and oddly, Fighting may be better there. (Especially with Landorus)

The Trainers are built in a way to take full advantage of the Korrina engine. Ultra Ball is still necessary due to how good Shaymin-EX is. A Supporter I am pretty excited to try in here is Giovanni's Scheme, as I think the numbers work in a way that make the +20 damage really matter.

Two cards I'd like to look into more are Bunnelby, and Jirachi. The deck admittedly has a terrible time past Giratina-EX, and Jirachi is quite strong there. Gallade really wants to use DCE, and Bunnelby is a great way to get them back to keep attacking. I wouldn't be surprised if either of those were correct to include.

Tyrantrum/Giratina/Bronzong is a deck that gets a few new additions with BREAKthrough. We see the return of Float Stone. We get Buddy Buddy Rescue, which is better than Sacred Ash or Super Rod in this deck, by a reasonable margin. Smeargle makes attacking with Tyrantrum-EX much easier, as it lets you convert a Metal Energy off an Active Tyrantrum into the deck's lone Fighting Energy. This lets you save most of your DDE for Giratina. The last new inclusion is Giovanni's Scheme, which takes the place of some of the deck's Muscle Bands. This lets you free up space, while getting an easier-to-find-and-use damage burst. I like it in addition to the one Muscle Band as it lets Heatran hit the 170 mark for an attack occasionally, and also lets you hit 230 with a Tyrantrum under ideal circumstances. I was torn between running a second Muscle Band anyways and the second Sky Field, and the Stadium card won out in the end.

Like all of the Bronzong lists I've included, there are a lot of potential inclusions, such as Jirachi, and Aegislash. Unlike some of the other lists, this deck gets to rely on Giratina as a means by which to actually beat decks like Vespiquen and Night March by locking them off of their DCEs. Against NM decks with Bronzong, you don't really have much recourse against Metal Links, outside of pairing Giratina with Hex Maniacs, and you struggle against Vespiquen and Blacksmith in similar wars.

I've debated whether or not I want to try running Zoroark, the new Keldeo-EX, in here, and I think I do not want to. It is a lot of work, makes the deck even weaker to Hex Maniac, and cramps the Bench space. I'm only running a pair of Sky Field, and that may get reduced. This is a deck where you actually NEED two Bronzong in play, and probably would like 3 in a lot of matchups, so those play a Shaymin don't really give you a lot of leeway to fit a Zoroark down.

This isn't really anything super innovative either, outside of the fact that I love running Korrina, and two Target Whistle. This deck can really abuse picking on Shaymin-EX. I want to make it so that you can easily just win off taking three Shaymin-EX Prizes in a game. Especially in a situation like Cities which will be best of 1 in Swiss, how often will your opponents play a Shaymin early on, walking into you just taking three cheap, easy KOs to win the match. In Match Play, maybe they go out of their way to avoid Benching Shaymin, but how many decks in Standard simply NEED to play Shaymin to set up? I had always been a bit sour on Target Whistle, but in a deck with Korrina, and in a format where the draw engine is absolutely miserable sans Shaymin-EX, I think the strategy is really powerful. I'm not sure if the deck needs a Xerosic or a Hex Maniac, but to fit the Target Whistles, I'm currently not running any. I want to try out Ace Trainer in the deck because with Crobat I feel like you can play from behind pretty well. I'm conflicted on the card because the deck often plays out as a definite aggressor. Still, I think it has the capacity to shift gears and leave something with a few HP left to pick off after an Ace Trainer later on.

Anyways, that’s it for today folks. I'm not really enjoying Standard as much as I had been Expanded, but it’s a nice change of pace, even if it’s got a few quirks and nuances that are taking some getting used to. I'll have more decks for you in my next article, hopefully just in time for Cities! See you then!

-Chris Fulop

[+11] okko


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